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May 2000

U.S. Draft Protocol to the ABM Treaty and Associated 'Talking Points'



  • Both the United States of America and the Russian Federation now possess and, as before, will possess under the terms of any possible future arms reduction agreements, large, diversified, viable arsenals of strategic offensive weapons consisting of various types of ICBMs, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and heavy bombers. Specifically, Russia's proposal for START-III would make it possible to have 1,500-2,000 warheads and even according to highly conservative hypotheses, Russia and the United States could deploy more than 1,000 ICBMs and submarine-launched ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads over the next decade and thereafter.

  • These strategic offensive forces give each side the certain ability to carry out an annihilating counterattack on the other side regardless of the conditions under which the war began.

  • Forces of this size can easily penetrate a limited NMD system of the type that the United States is now developing.

  • Russia now keeps its strategic arsenal on constant alert and apparently will do so even at START-III levels. Russian forces under START-III could make an annihilating counterattack even under conditions of a surprise disarming first strike by the USA in combination with a limited US NMD system.

  • As a result of this Russian response initiated from nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines at sea, land-based mobile missiles, silo-based ICBMs and bombers that would survive the first strike, a minimum of a few hundred warheads could be delivered. Moreover, Russian forces have sophisticated decoy systems and other defense penetration aids, and this means that it would not have to count on simply exhausting defensive resources to overcome them. Furthermore, the surviving Russian forces would be so large and sophisticated that they could carry out an assault to enhance the offensive, which no rogue state would be capable of.

  • Furthermore, it is highly unlikely that any enemy would ever contemplate a first strike, since it would have to assume that Russian ICBMs and submarine-launched ballistic missiles/nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines in port would be launched after tactical warning, which would neutralize the effectiveness of the assault. In this case Russia's response to an assault would obviously be to send about a thousand warheads, together with two to three times more decoys, accompanied by other advanced defense penetration aids.

  • If an attempt at a disarming strike were made after a period of increased international tension or conflict using conventional weapons, Russia's counterattack would be considerable after the US repulsed the first strike as a result of explicit steps that the Russian armed forces would have taken to increase combat readiness by dispatching an additional number of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines out to sea, by field deployment of a large number of mobile missiles and by putting bombers on takeoff alert.

  • The planned American strategic nuclear forces deployed under the START-III ceilings would also be able to be on constant alert or on crisis alert to deliver many hundreds of warheads in response to any assailant.

  • Both the United States and the Russian Federation therefore have solid capabilities to respond to a strike from any assailant with a large number of retaliatory weapons.

  • Furthermore, the tremendous risks associated with initiating a nuclear war under any circumstances make these theoretical calculations largely irrelevant. Obviously, neither side could ever contemplate such an assault.